I’ve got baby fever. Eggs are in the incubator. I started with 29 eggs and after checking to see how many are fertilized and viable, the current count is 23. The target hatch dates are March 29 & 30 – starting in about a week.
I’m excited, and I also have huge reservations about being excited. You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” – do you know why you shouldn’t count them? Because they don’t all hatch! With an incubator hatch, some or all of them will hatch, or perhaps none of them will hatch. You never know until its over. Isn’t that just the truth about everything in life.
I hatched chicks two years ago and you can read about it here:
- Setting up the incubator
- How to candle eggs and check for fertility
- Hatch Day!
- Setting up the brooder
This year I’m nervous. Is the temperature in the incubator correct? What about the humidity? Are they developing on schedule? This time around I am such a nervous Nellie. I’m trying so hard to disconnect from the whole process in case it fails. It won’t fail, I know that. But the irrational chicken-lady, baby-fever-mama in me is telling me to not get obsessed.
The 29 eggs I started with this time around didn’t just fall into my lap. This is partly what’s driving my nervousness. I sought them out. I worked for them. I wanted them so badly. The place I rented the incubator from had only meat eggs for sale (our local cooperative extension office). Those chicks would have turned into meat birds and would not become egg layers. MAYBE they could get me a dozen red sex linked eggs (egg layers), but it wasn’t likely. I had hatched a dozen sex linked eggs from them last time. From that hatch I have three red sex link hens (Carrie, Aries, and Fuzzybottom) and one Buff Orpington (Faye). Faye’s egg was added to the dozen by accident, I’m sure. I wasn’t expecting her to hatch out and be anything but a red sex link, and the folks at the cooperative extension office weren’t expecting a Buff Orpington either! As it turns out, we love Faye and we think we would love more Buff Orpingtons (BOs). Our sex linked chickens are our most nervous hens, and although I thought I wanted more of them because they are good layers, I decided I don’t like their disposition. When I asked the folks at the cooperative extension office this time if I could get some BOs, they didn’t know where to source the eggs.
I hit a wall there. This was one month before I planned to plug in the incubator and start the hatch cycle. I started talking about my plans (and hopes and dreams) with EVERYONE. I worked it into every conversation I had. Friends, coworkers at the farmers market, and complete strangers. I always said I was looking for Buff Orpington eggs… did they know anyone who had fertilized eggs? I turned to the internet and found that BO eggs are pricey. They can sell for $50 a dozen. I consider that to be a lot of money! I did some homework and learned more about chicken breeds and decided our priority was family-friendly chickens. There are a number of breeds that fill the bill.
I talked to everyone all over again, repeating my conversation about looking for eggs, this time saying we were looking for eggs of a number of different breeds. I emailed Ebay sellers and placed a bid on Easter Egger eggs. I picked up the incubator and knew I was plugging it in on Saturday, March 8 (‘H’s birthday – I started the hatch on her birthday two years ago, too). The Ebay eggs arrived in time, and somehow everything came together. By the end of the weekend I had 29 eggs in. 7 came from my Ebay seller, 12 came from a local farmer, and 10 came from Michael, the farmer I work for. And by now, everyone around me knows I’m hatching chicks. Everyone.
Like I said, my hatch date is in a week. I have not done anything to prepare for their arrival. Next week I’ll clean off the heat lamp and get feed and water dishes; I’ll tape together a cardboard box to use as a brooder; I’ll raise the room temperature of the craft room, where the chicks will spend their first week or two. A week from now I’ll listen for the peep peep that comes through the shell the day before the chicks peck their way out. And then, hopefully, we’ll be in chick heaven.
An Update on the bees
I checked my one remaining beehive today to see if they needed food. Much to my dismay, they were all dead. There was plenty of honey left so I’m thinking they died from the cold, not starvation. It was not easy to see it. The mass of all the bees in a hive are equivalent to a small animal or two. The clean up on my end is enormous. These feelings that come with losing a beehive will stay with me forever, I’m sure. Just like so many other feelings.
I’ve come to understand a few things, and one of them is that animals and insects live and die, and although we are here to steward them through the process, we don’t ultimately control anything. My small-scale hobby farm radiates life and death. It is just a part of the process. I do my best to protect my animals and the bees, and I am sure I’ll continue to learn and do a better job along the way, but in the end I am learning to accept the fact that all of these living beings around me will die. That’s a tough concept, right? It is the way of the world.
Because I am the eternal optimist, I am looking forward to new life – chicks soon, followed by a package of new bees, a garden filled with sprouting seeds, apple blossoms on the trees, and Robin eggs tucked snug in their nests. Life goes on.